GM food trials to be extended for three years

The Government is on the verge of clinching a deal which will extend trials to discover whether genetically modified crops pose any threat to the environment for a further three years, it emerged today.

The Government is on the verge of clinching a deal which will extend trials to discover whether genetically modified crops pose any threat to the environment for a further three years, it emerged today.

The deal with the biochemical industry will see a significant expansion in the number of farm-scale trials - but will effectively postpone any commercial growing of GM crops until well into the new millennium.

A spokesman for the Government's GM communications unit said it had long been the intention that the trials programme should stretch over four years.

The first year's trials had been completed, and a deal with industry representatives to extend testing for three more years was now close, the spokesman indicated.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher would make a formal announcement on the issue "fairly shortly".

The spokesman said Mr Meacher had always maintained that commercial cultivation of GM crops would not be allowed until the Government was satisfied that there would be no unacceptable impact on the environment.

An extended programme of farm-scale trials was needed to clarify whether GM crops do pose any threat to biodiversity.

"You can't do this kind of work in a laboratory. We need a proper picture of what is going on in the countryside," the spokesman said.

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